Invest in your Family

Invest in your Family

Jan 08, 2014

As we start the year with high hopes, I wish to discuss the importance of investing in our respective families. Invest time, effort, money and do so in a deliberate way, the way we do with our corporate affairs.

Corporate matters are dealt with in black and white rules, clear expectations and assessments because this is the efficient way. It eliminates, or at least significantly reduces, misunderstandings. However, oftentimes when we deal with family affairs we are not as deliberate or clear about our expectations. A lot of Filipinos are not comfortable with this concept of using clear and corporate-like practices for the family. A relative once expressed her discomfort on our requests for RSVP for family parties because she found it “too corporate” and very much the opposite of how they used to hold parties wherein you invite a couple and the couple was free to either not show up or show up with the barangay! 

The problem with not using corporate efficiencies in dealing with our family affairs (way beyond RSVPs) is that when expectations are not stated clearly, they will most likely be unmet. When they are not met, we either go ballistics with our frustration or just allow them to pass, “Pagbigyan mo na, anak/magulang/kapatid mo naman yan. Pamilya yan, huwag nang magkwentahan.”  And this cycle goes on and on until the little irritations become a big family issue, something that could have been avoided if only expectations were set out clear at the start.

Another thing that we don’t maximize if we don’t use corporate efficiencies is the genuine and most valuable support from our family to fulfill our dreams and goals.

Maybe in the olden days, it wasn’t as necessary to be as deliberate with family matters because members were always together in the same house, engaged in the same activities. It was easier to understand and anticipate the needs of each member. But these days each family member is almost always doing his/her own thing. The parents are away at work while their children are growing up. Whereas the parents’ helpers in raising their children used to be their own relatives, these days we welcome total strangers to our homes to rear our children in their formative years. When the children start going to school, they too become busy with their hectic schedules filled with academics, extra-curricular and social media! The challenge to connect with each family member meaningfully becomes bigger and bigger. 

How then do you know what’s brewing in each family member’s heart when you’re all busy, and when your free time is used on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?

This is where being deliberate and “corporate” practices help us. I’m a huge believer in the importance of Family Dinners. Studies show that kids who grew up not having regular dinner with family members are more likely to have problems with drug, alcoholism, etc. “Mandate” regular family dinners. If everyday is not possible, designate a couple of days a week to have a meal together, sans gadgets. If you or your kids can’t help but Instagram the dishes, just give yourself/them a few seconds to do that then put away gadgets out of sight during the meal. And please, don’t forget to say grace. Instagram should never be the replacement for saying grace, even if your photo caption is “Thank God for this yummy dish!”

Make your family dinners ordinary yet delightful family time. Make each one comfortable to discuss anything (pleasant of course). Avoid topics that may cause indigestion. Encourage each one to be open and withhold repressive judgment, if possible, as it may unnecessarily shut off the discussion. Regular family meals are a great opportunity to share each other’s views, values and innermost feelings. The regularity is important because you don’t want to be left out in the latest developments of your family members’ lives.

Another corporate efficiency that I suggest is being deliberate, intentional and clear with our dreams and goals. Successful companies (and families) don’t happen as accidents. They are a product of efficiency and hard work. But the hard work can be fun. They are a product of clear vision and mission wherein each member has a role to play.

Among our family traditions is to go to a new place and have our Yearender after Christmas. There we discover new things and discuss our Family and Individual Dreams & Goals. This started out as a “gift giving to Jesus” when the boys were still very young. From the start we always made it clear to them that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our savior. I don’t have anything against the jolly bearded man in red suit (which was really a Coke commercial) but we never really made the boys believe in Santa giving them gifts secretly on Christmas day. Maybe it was our way of highlighting Jesus instead of Santa, or maybe because both my husband and I didn’t grow up in the Santa tradition. Check out what works for your family but don’t forget to include the real reason for the season. (Click link to read Do You Make Your Kids Believe In Santa?)

During the boys’ early years we had a tradition of sharing our gifts for Jesus. After receiving our own Christmas gifts, we read the letters we wrote for the birthday celebrator. It went something like this, “Dear Jesus, My birthday gift for you is a promise to be kinder to my younger brothers…” and since He doesn’t need anything material, our gifts were more like resolutions and promises to be better in the coming year.

Later on it evolved into a fun activity, usually out of town or the country. We would designate a day and devote a few hours when we would share our Family Dreams & Goals. The very premise and starting point of our dream is our set of core values. Then we move on to our big dream (the long-term goal, what kind of person one wants to be). Then we have a set of 3-year goals. After that is the Checklist for the year including, among others, Net Asset Value targets. And to operationalize and make these dreams and goals come true are our monthly, weekly and daily habits. We have Individual and Family versions. We have all these in our individual excel files wherein we rate ourselves. Yes, we give ourselves grades for the period under assessment. It’s like computing our QPI (Quantity Point Average) or GPA (General Point Average). The big grades come during the yearend, but we have quick sessions on quarterly assessments during the year over weekend lunches. We’ve shared this practice in the FQ workshops we conducted as a family. I hope the participants have done their own version of it.

It’s quite exciting when we’re able to tick off items in our lists and everyone would give a big round of applause. Some goals are not met and can be re-set for the next year, while some are altered or scrapped altogether.

What I love about this practice is that our family and individual goals are clear to all family members. We can help each other fulfill those goals and we’re also accountable to fulfill announced targets. Isn’t that fun and efficient?

We also have a list of places we want to visit. There are so many wonderful places to visit in a lifetime that we also have to be intentional in planning our vacations.

There was one feature we added to our Yearender session last week. We added a discussion of our individual fears and insecurities. It was a welcome addition to our otherwise, rah-rah sessions. If there are people in this world who would lovingly listen to your fears and insecurities and not use them against you, they are no other than your family. I was so moved to hear from each family member. The ironic thing that happened was that I ended up respecting them even more after I heard their self-doubts and vulnerability. And best of all, I gathered a lot of creative suggestions from my sons’ young minds on how to overcome my own fears and insecurities.

Being Corporate is not Being Corny.

You might think that our family is way too deliberate and calculated in our actions. That’s far from the truth. We are still the regular family, we let our hair down and do crazy things. We still fumble and make a lot of mistakes. I guess the difference is in the way we take failures. I’d like to think that we’ve trained ourselves not to be too sensitive with rejections and failures for we know that if we haven’t failed a lot of times, it’s very likely that we have not tried hard enough to get out of our comfort zone.

While the year is young, I invite you to take a look at how purposeful you have been in leading your families. Family is the basic unit of society and the most important institution in our life. You can still go ahead and romanticize about your family’s history, the innate goodness that’s in your blood that runs in your veins, your inborn natural talents, your deeply rooted rituals and traditions. But please articulate them for everyone to be on the same page. Review them and make sure that they are in agreement with each one’s core values. Invest time, effort and money in your family. Apply the efficient corporate practices for a better family in 2014 and the years to come.

Cheers to a purposeful leadership of your family!